Spring Camp last April was canceled before it ever started. July's summer access period featured just conditioning drills with no pads or helmets.

On Aug. 13, the Big Sky Conference put the 2020 football season on hold. 

Cal Poly's Fall Ball, a 12-practice camp designed to keep the players fresh during the break in the action, was halted after five sessions due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Big Sky announced a six-game conference-only schedule in early November. That had to be scrubbed after four schools followed Sacramento State in deciding to opt out of any football in he spring of 2021. 

Finally, there seems to be some semblance of order, some hope that football indeed will be played soon.

Last Monday, a revised six-game conference-only schedule was released. The Mustangs will play three games at home and three on the road, starting Feb. 27. 

And on Friday, the three-week preseason camp opened much to the delight of all Mustang coaches and, especially, the players. 

"It's a long time coming," said senior linebacker Matt Shotwell. "Since I was 9 years old and wanting to come to Cal Poly, you dream about being a senior and a starter on the Cal Poly football team after having three brothers play here before me. 

"Today is a dream come true," the younger brother of Kyle, Ryan and Troy added. "It took a little longer than it should have, but we're just  happy to be back out here."

About 110 players donned shorts and jerseys for the first of five days of conditioning drills at Doerr Family Field. The pads will be utilized next Wednesday. A total of 25 practices can be held between Friday and the Feb. 27 opener. 

"It's a great day," said senior wide receiver Quentin Harrison. "It gives us hope that we will have a season. We've been watching a lot of football lately and it's just great that we can get back out here and get back into the swing of things, playing football. 

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Over the last 13 months, coaches and players have held Zoom meetings, voluntary workouts, practices with pods of 10 players or less, walk-throughs, film sessions, off-campus lifting plans, position group meetings, etc. 

"I enjoy anything football related and, if that's what we have to do, that's what we'll do," Harrison added. 

"I feel like today is the start of a  new era for Cal Poly football and Cal Poly athletics in general," said junior linebacker Fenton Will. "We've put in a lot of hard work, a lot of hours, been through a lot this past year with all the cancellation stuff. 

"Everyone is excited to be back and I think it's a new time for Cal Poly," Will added.

Beau Baldwin, named Cal Poly's 17th head football coach in December 2019, had at his disposal Friday about 50 returning lettermen, including 14 who started at least five games in 2019 (eight on offense, six on defense). 

Also in camp are 25 redshirts or returning injured players (some of whom played up to four games under the NCAA's new rule preserving the redshirt year), eight who were on the roster but did not play in any games a year ago, six transfers and 35 who played football in high school in 2019 but have yet to see a down in college.

Cal Poly opens its 2020-21 campaign Feb. 27 at UC Davis and will wrap up the season against the same Aggies on April 10 inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. 

In between are home games versus Weber State on March 6 and Southern Utah on March 13 followed by road contests against Eastern Washington on March 27 and Northern Arizona on April 3.

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